South Asia Theater

New violence at Ayodhya

Six were killed today as unidentified militants attacked the bitterly contested holy site of Ayodhya in India's Uttar Pradesh. First, a likely suicide bomber in a jeep blew up an outer security wall; then a group of five others posing as tourists in a taxi stormed the complex, sparking a gunbattle with police in which all the attackers were killed. The site has occasioned much violence in the past, beginning in December 1992, when the Babri mosque that had stood there since the Mogul era was destroyed in a mass action by Hindu militants, who claimed it was built atop an ancient temple marking the birthplace of the god Rama. The question again exploded into violence in February 2002 when a train carrying Hindu militants from the site, where they had rallied for rebuilding the temple, was attacked by Muslim militants in Gujarat state, leaving 59 dead and sparking weeks of retaliatory violence in which over 1,000 Muslims were killed. Excavations are currently underway to determine if in fact the temple had existed, and a makeshift Hindu shrine has been erected there.

Kashmir: Amarnath Yatra peaceful this year

It was wonderful to see photos in the newspapers today of Hindu pilgrims making their way up mountain trails in the disputed Indian state of Jammu & Kashmir for the annual yatra or pilgrimage to Amarnath Cave, where Shiva is honored in the form of a natural ice stalagmite that is regarded as a symbol of the god's phallus. The 2002 yatra had been marred by sectarian violence that left nine pilrgims dead (see WW4 REPORT #46). This year, the only problems have been logistical (heavy snowfall, overbooked flights for those who chose helicopter rather than the traditional 80-mile trek from Srinagar).

India: Maoist insurgency gains ground

Almost completely overlooked by the world media, the insurgency of the Naxalites, India's Maoist guerillas, has been simmering since the 1960s, and now shows signs of gaining ground, as indicated by this June 17 report from the Indian news agency Rediff:

Naxalism: 13 states discuss strategy
A one-day meeting of top officials of 13 Maoist-affected states to chalk out strategies to tackle Naxalism commenced in Hyderabad on Friday.

Amnesty: West arming Nepal dictatorship

Western governments are flouting their own rules and contributing to grave human rights abuses by selling arms and weapons systems to Nepal, Amnesty International said in a statement today. The rights group accused the UK, US and India of supplying thousands of assault rifles to the Himalayan kingdom and said Belgium was selling machine guns and South Africa military communications equipment. "With the conflict poised to escalate, any further military assistance would be highly irresponsible," Amnesty said, appealing for a ban on arms sales to the kingdom.

Nepal: Maoists apologize for atrocity; repression continues

Violence continued in Nepal June 7, with 14 soldiers and six Maoist guerillas killed in a clash in the southwest, even as the rebels publicly apologized for killing 38 civilians in a land mine blast the day before. The civilians were killed and 70 others wounded in the worst attack on civilians since the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist), or CPN(M), launched its armed struggle in 1996. The rebels said they had intended to attack a passing army convoy, but instead hit a bus carrying civilian passengers.

Sri Lanka "Moors" protest tsunami aid deal

A new outbreak of ethnic violence in Sri Lanka's restive east is hindering tsunami relief efforts, a group of nearly 100 aid agencies said June 3. Shootings and grenade attacks have become commonplace in the east in recent months, blamed largely on feuding between the Tamil Tiger guerillas and a breakaway faction which refuses to accept a 2002 ceasefire. "We, the humanitarian community of Sri Lanka, have noted...the steady escalation of violence in the east," the Consortium of Humanitarian Agencies said in a statement, backed by 98 agencies including Save the Children, Caritas and CARE. "It is detrimental to the speed and effectiveness of the relief operation, hinders access to affected communities and hampers reconstruction efforts."

Nepal: "normalization" of royal dictatorship?

Nepal's royalist government May 18 freed nine opposition political leaders detained since King Gyanendra seized sweeping emergency powers over three months ago. Nepal's Supreme Court one day earlier ruled the politicians had been held illegally, and ordered that the detainees, including three former ministers, be freed from police detention. But the same day they were released, authorities held for questioning Kanak Mani Dixit, a leading journalist and commentator who, in a newspaper article in April, urged the king to become a ceremonial head and stay out of politics. This was the latest in a series of detainments of Nepalese journalists since the king seized emergency powers. (Reuters, May 18)

Kashmir water war

The recent moves towards peace between India and Pakistan, symbolized by the historic establishment of bus service across the line of control in divided Kashmir, are a welcome development. But the April 6 arson attack on a Srinagar compound where trans-border bus passengers were being housed is testament to the potential for further armed resistance. This report from the Pakistan Daily Times of April 25 delineates some of the little-noted reasons that Jammat-e-Islami, the biggest Kashmir resistance group, is not laying down arms (a position supported by the group's legal arm, Muthidda Majlis-e-Aamal):

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